Regional Baseline Monitoring — Central Coast
Characterized by picturesque cliffs and shorelines, the Central Coast is home to a vast diversity of species and life.
The marine and coastal waters of California’s Central Coast region are among the most biologically productive in the world, driven by the seasonal upwelling of nutrient-rich waters from the seafloor to the sea surface. Giant kelp grow as tall as trees, forming underwater forests. Ocean waters range from shallow estuaries to depths of nearly a mile in the Monterey Submarine Canyon. Central Coast waters are home to a tremendous diversity of species – at least 26 marine mammal species, 94 seabird species, 4 sea turtle species, more than 340 fish species, thousands of invertebrate species, and more than 450 marine algae species. Coastal communities are closely linked to the region’s productive waters and depend on healthy resources for fisheries and coastal tourism.
The Central Coast region, which stretches from Pigeon Point in San Mateo County southward to Point Conception in Santa Barbara County, contains 28 MPAs and one State Marine Recreational Management Area that were established in September 2007. These MPAs cover 535 square kilometers, or approximately 18% of the 2,964 square kilometers of state waters.
A BROAD ECOLOGICAL AND SOCIOECONOMIC SNAPSHOT OF THE REGION
Researchers from academic institutions and government agencies, fishermen involved in collaborative fisheries projects, collected data about kelp forests, nearshore fish populations, rocky intertidal habitats, deep-water habitats, and human uses. In combination this gathered data paint a broad picture of the condition of Central Coast marine ecosystems.
Collectively, these aggregated data provide a benchmark of ecological and socioeconomic conditions from 2007 to 2008, as well as an examination of initial changes that occured from 2007 to 2012. While the baseline monitoring program initially consisted of five monitoring projects, California Reef Check, an ongoing citizen science program, and the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s ROV program joined the baseline program collaboration shortly after implementation. In 2011, with additional support from the Ocean Protection Council, up-to-date socioeconomic data were added to the baseline program.
ADDING DATA AND RESULTS TO UNDERSTAND THE CENTRAL COAST SETTING
Establishing a benchmark of baseline conditions requires not only information on the ecology and socioeconomics of the region but also an understanding of the broader physical habitat, oceanographic and economic context in which the MPAs are placed. Moreover, information on the level of compliance with MPA regulations from the Department of Fish and Wildlife provides a key piece of the puzzle in understanding ocean conditions.